The Red-capped Manakin occurs from southeast Mexico south through Central America to Panama, and then along the Pacific slope of South America to northwest Ecuador. There are several species of 'red-headed' Pipra manakins, but this is the only that occurs in Central America, or in South America west of the Andes. In this region the male Red-headed Manakin is very distinctive. The tibial feathers are yellow (an older name for this species is Yellow-thighed Manakin), but the black body and contrasting, bright red head are the main features of the male. The green-bodied female is less distinctive, but since there are few other small-bodied manakins within its range, females also should be readily identifiable. The Red-capped Manakin inhabits humid evergreen and semideciduous forests, as well as tall second growth and even thickets, occasionally visiting forest borders, clearings, and even scrubby areas, especially to forage at fruiting trees.